I will be detailing the process of traveling to UAE from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia by land. This will include all the preps and advice I can give based on our successes and failures during those hours.
First, you got to set a budget. This will depend on how much you are willing to spend and how much you are willing to stretch to maximize the budget. Our trip cost me a fortune. We were 10 altogether, so there are 10 brains functioning; each wanting to go to a place after another — that means more spending. My suggestion – plan your itinerary. The “come what may attitude” only works if traveling as a couple, heck, it doesn’t even work when traveling with my husband!
Note to self: For long travels, better travel with family because no matter how bad the road rage is due to heat and exhaustion – you’re family. There’s no further harm you can inflict to one another except for stern looks and silly hand gestures!
Now about the paperwork:
You must have a valid UAE Visitor’s Visa. This can be secured from the website costing you around 250 AED per visa (I think) but since I was lazy (because I am sure they will be asking me to apply for them (9 people), I thought seeking help from an agency would be better), I secured our visa from a friend who works in a traveling agency. They charge way less than the regular travel agencies and it’s uber fast! If you want to know their information: please message me here. The agency processing in KSA costs around 500 SAR (I did ask around) and theirs is way less. I mean, definitely not 250 AED (because hello?), but way cheaper than local agencies. Theirs is based in Abu Dhabi. Note: I am not a broker, so you need to directly communicate with the agency.
Exit Re-entry Visa. This is important not only because you cannot travel without it, but also because it’s required by the bank for car authorization.
If you’re leasing your car, say like us; since we haven’t paid it in full (poor us), we had to go and get authorization from Alrajhi Bank, Alrawdha Branch (super far). That document costs around 36 SAR. Other banks charge more I think. They will only accept debit card payments, so you must have some money on your account. Note: If your wife owns the car, there’s a female section at the back side of the building where you will need to sign some documents; you must prepare the car registration (estimara), your iqamas (if she’s authorizing you) as well as your marriage contract, with Arabic translation.
More on the car: Even if your car is new, it is still good to have it checked. We discovered that the battery of our car corroded few hrs before our travel. It was crazy because we cannot run it for hours esp. with the threat that our new battery can get discharged again. Better to do the checking earlier than the 11th hour. You must also check your tyres. Have they been with you long enough that it could fail you while on a non-stop long drive? If you are unsure about your tyres, please, do buy a set (noting that spare is as important). Check your batteries, tyres, tools, and other emergency safety kits. If they’re all checked, you are good to go.
Gas: Going to UAE required us 2 full tanks of gas to reach the border (for a big car). Perhaps sedans and smaller SUVs would require 3 refills for the trip. But you know, the drivers know these things.
Distance: As far as we can recall, we reached the border in 5 hours. We thought we’ve seen the Promised Land only to find out that we still have 6 more long hours to drive to reach Dubai city center. All in all, going there took us 11 long hours until we’re home sweet home — to our hotel. We’ll talk about that later. The trip homeward bound though is excruciating. We have used Waze all the freakin time so like the usual, it is so reliable except for the times that you didn’t solely rely on it and took a glance at Google Maps. We were taking Al Ahsa Road going back but it was a series of closed roads which Waze didn’t indicate albeit, driving us away (there must be a reason right?) but Google Maps encouraged our going there — on those closed roads! Why Google, why? We should have stayed with Waze but we wondered why it didn’t give us a reason for the detour. It’s a mistake on our part. It took us 2-3 extra hours going home due to the mishaps encountered along the way. We should have relied on Waze because it is live routing. Anyhoo, next time, we’d do better.
Food: Of course, traveling long distance requires food. Make sure you’re all stocked up. There are several convenient stores along the way but it’s always better to have something packed before you go.
Hotels: Since my boss always asks me to look for hotels in downtown Dubai, I thought I’d check that out. Ohmigosh, the hotels there are pretty expensive! Like 6000AED above – per night! So I compromised, looked elsewhere… but since I was booking the hotel super late, I missed the apartment type hotels that we liked! The practical suggestion is to book early on to get the best deals on hotels plus, with more choices. We stayed in Holiday Inn Al Rigga. It’s not bad. It’s a 4-star hotel as per Booking.com, but I tell you it’s not. The carpeting is old and there’s a funky smell on the corridors but considering our good experience including the facilities and service (not to mention the super comfy sheets), it’s worth considering again. It has an awesome location too especially for Filipinos who miss the Philippines and all its perks. If you’re like us, then this location is for you. The hotel is reasonably priced, from 14-19 June, we only paid 4300-4400 AED for the four rooms all together, excluding room service of course. They too have an interesting spa. I feel I must mention that, just go there and find out, if you dare.
So the thing is, hotels charge an extra 25% for the taxes (miscellaneous but it will be broken down accordingly) – according to my friend, the one who issued our visas from their agencies, they can get you a deal charging you with only 10% out of the 25% being taxed via Booking.com. If you’re interested, message me here and I’d hook you up.
UAE Tourist Spots: There are several places to visit in UAE. We have visited the Lego Land and the malls and my favorite Souq Madinat Jumeirah. I love it! That place satisfied the hipster in me and I think, that’s one of the best places ever. I loved Dubai Mall too, at least the Cyber Section (or whatever it’s called). I cannot wait to see the Warner Bros. theme park when it opens. By the way, we tried to go to Lamesa because it served Filipino food and pork of course, but it was closed, we came in too late. We also missed Regine Velasquez’s concert. Like I can make them watch that! I mean given that it’s expensive plus, I think, I am the only fantard out there! All in all, I can say that we have maximized the time we’re there and we’ve gone to so many places, but since I am not a travel blogger, I would let others do the honors of detailing.
Fees / Immigration: Getting there, we paid 210 SAR at the border. My husband said that the fee was for GCC Car Insurance although I am kind of puzzled about the need since our insurance covers traveling GCC with exception of some countries but not UAE. We were asked to pay like it’s a standard procedure so I think it’s really necessary, of course, we paid.
Our iqamas served a vital role, you should have it ready at all times alongside the passports. Also, when you’re being scanned (retina, I think) at the immigration, open your eyes real wide especially if you’ve got the typical Southeast Asian eyes.
Returning to Riyadh has some fees too, we were charged 33 AED per person, but that’s it. They inspected us thoroughly for contraband (can you blame them?) otherwise, everything went with flying colors.
Again, I can hook you up with stress-free visa application and hotel accommodation with less tax (15% is significant!) but again, I am not a broker, you will be communicating with the agent directly.
Hope this helps.